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Knives and rednecks

Having been a sensitive, empathetic boy, I was prone to all sorts of daydreams and flights of mind and spirit. At grade school and high school, I was clumsy, half-hearted in athletic pursuit, and didn’t have a great deal of rapport with the other kids in my neighborhood, who could be cruel and vindictive.

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Nigger hunt

As I deliver mail day to day, I think about American active and structural racism. It’s hard not to, given my past in the soup pot. My route runs through a suburban neighborhood activated and motivated by race. Except for one Black American woman and an African immigrant married to a white man, there are no Blacks or Black Americans on my daily rounds.

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My privilege

Race dominates the American mind. Even when we aren’t thinking about it, we are living every day in a steeply racialized nation. Not to think about race in America is the privilege of someone who lives and moves in the majority. I argue that, in this way, we are thinking about it even when we are not.

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The other day, I had a conversation with a customer so comforting that when I walked away, I had a spring in my step that followed me for the rest of the 14 miles I had on my route. It’s not that he soothed me or made me feel good about myself or my life. His was not the succor offered to the sick and those in pain. The feeling I had was that conversations like ours were still possible in the present state of our union.

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